Home Sweet Home? The Mysterious Death of Janette Williams. Investigating the Safe Use of Hazardous Household Products

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1 Home Sweet Home? The Mysterious Death of Janette Williams Investigating the Safe Use of Hazardous Household Products Developed by Tracy Suggs Vestal Senior High School, Vestal New York For the My Environment, My Health, My Choices project University of Rochester Rochester, NY Abstract: This learning experience is an interrupted case study to engage learning about hazardous household products. Students work in teams and assume the roles of Chemical Investigators as they assist in determining the cause of death of a young female in her home. The case study is interrupted as teams learn necessary background information in toxicology, exposure, routes of entry, dose-response curves, reading labels, and risk-benefit assessment. Students use this information to understand clues on the labels of household cleaning products found at the police scene. Using police, coroner, and forensic documents, the students reconstruct a scenario that might have created a toxic situation. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 1

2 Table of Contents Page Number Title Page 1 Table of Contents 2 Student Handouts Student Pre/Post Test 3 Pre/Post Test Answer Key 6 Request for Information 9 Responsibilities as Chemical Investigators 10 Official Police Report 11 Task 1; Process Official Police Report 14 Task 2: Research Background Information 15 Topic 1; What is Toxicology? 16 Topic 2; How Can a Household Product Be Dangerous? 20 Topic 3; What Information is on the Labels? 24 Topic 4; Are Household Chemicals Good or Bad for Us? 27 Task 3 Check For Understanding 31 Certification Questions for Task 3 32 Task 4 Learn More About Household Product Labels 33 Task 5 Record Information from Household Product Labels 36 Task 5 Chart for Recording Information 37 Task 5 Questions 38 Task 6 Evaluate Information from Household Product Labels 39 County Coroner s Autopsy Report 41 Forensic Specialist s Report 42 Task 7 Final Report from the Chemical Investigators 43 For Your Information 45 Teacher Information Mysterious Death Solved, A Possible Scenario 46 Learning Context 47 Procedure; Classroom Timeline 48 Chart of Suggested Household Products 50 Detailed Instructions for Implementing the Activity 51 Sample Answers for Student Handouts 55 Teacher Handouts Assessment Plan 63 Possible Extensions for Students 63 Resources 65 NYS Learning Standards and Performance Indicators 68 Appendix A; How to do a Jigsaw Cooperative Learning Structure 69 Appendix B; Labels for the 34 Recommended Household Products 70 Teachers, we would appreciate your feedback. Please complete our brief, online Environmental Health Science Activity Evaluation Survey after you implement these lessons in your classroom. The survey is available online at: Note: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 2

3 Name Student Pre/Post Test 1. Given the ingredients of 4 household products: Heet ; methanol, blue coloring, water Fruit Fresh ; dextrose, ascorbic acid, citric acid, silicon dioxide Parson s Ammonia; aqueous ammonia Moth Balls; crystalline naphthalene Which household product is composed of one substance, only? 1. Heet 2. Fruit Fresh 3. Parson s 4. Moth Balls 2. Given a particle diagram representing a sample of Windex. In the particle diagram, represents an atom of nitrogen, represents an atom of hydrogen, and represents an atom of oxygen. The composition of Windex is best described as 1. one compound 2. one element 3. a mixture of compounds 4. a mixture of elements 3. The formula, H 2 O 2 is an example of 1. a molecular formula 2. a structural formula 3. an ionic formula 4. an empirical formula My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 3

4 4. Which statement correctly describes the changes that occur when a sample of gas is heated in a closed container? 1. The average kinetic energy of the molecules decreases and the pressure of the gas decreases. 2. The average kinetic energy of the molecules decreases and the pressure of the gas increases. 3. The average kinetic energy of the molecules increases and the pressure of the gas decreases. 4. The average kinetic energy of the molecules increases and the pressure of the gas increases. 5. Which name is paired with the correct formula for the substance? 1. hydrogen chloride HCl 2 2. ammonia NH 4 3. sodium hypochlorite NaClO 4. sodium carbonate NaCO 3 6. The term, LD 50, is used in toxicology to refer to 1. Low Dosage for people age of 50 or less to prevent harm 2. Limit Duration of exposure to less than 50 seconds 3. Legal Document used in 50 states by the FDA 4. Lethal Dose for 50% of the exposed population 7. Which curve represents the relationship between dose of an administered substance and the response of the individual receiving the dose? A B C D response response response response dose dose dose dose 1. A 2. B 3. C 4. D My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 4

5 8. Which statement defines dose-response relationship in the context of hazardous substances? 1. Any dose will cause the same amount of harm 2. The harm from a hazard increases as the dose increases. 3. Small doses of a hazardous substance do not cause any harm. 4. Death is the result of contact with a hazardous substance. 9. Which term is not regulated for use to describe properties of hazardous substances? 1. Irritant 2. Corrosive 3. Deadly 4. Flammable 10. Labels on hazardous substances require, by law, the use of signal words to notify the consumer of the level of hazard. Below is a sample label. EASY-OFF HEAVY DUTY OVEN CLEANER READ WARNINGS, PRECAUTIONS AND ENTIRE LABEL BEFORE USE. PRECAUTIONS: Use only as directed. Recommended for use ONLY on porcelain enamel, iron, stainless steel, ceramic and glass surfaces. Do not puncture or incinerate container, expose to heat or store at temperature above 120 o F. DIRECTIONS: SHAKE CAN WELL AND FREQUENTLY. Wear long rubber gloves. Do not get this on skin clothing, or in eyes. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN DANGER: Contains sodium hydroxide (LYE) WILL BURN SKIN AND EYES. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED. Do not ingest. FIRST AID: SKIN rinse immediately and remove contaminated clothing. EYES rinse immediately, and remove any contact lenses. Flush eyes with water for at least 15 minutes. Which term on this sample label is an official hazardous substance Signal Word? 1. DANGER 2. FIRST AID 3. HARMFUL 4. PRECAUTIONS My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 5

6 Pre-test and Post-test Answer Key 1. Given the ingredients of 4 household products: Heet ; methanol, blue coloring, water Fruit Fresh ; dextrose, ascorbic acid, citric acid, silicon dioxide Parson s Ammonia; aqueous ammonia Moth Balls; crystalline naphthalene Which household product is composed of one substance, only? 1. Heet 2. Fruit Fresh 3. Parson s 4. Moth Balls 2. Given a particle diagram representing a sample of Windex. In the particle diagram, represents an atom of nitrogen, represents an atom of hydrogen, and represents an atom of oxygen. The composition of Windex is best described as 1. one compound 2. one element 3. a mixture of compounds 4. a mixture of elements 3. The formula, H 2 O 2 is an example of 1. a molecular formula 2. a structural formula 3. an ionic formula 4. an empirical formula My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 6

7 4. Which statement correctly describes the changes that occur when a sample of gas is heated in a closed container? 1. The average kinetic energy of the molecules decreases and the pressure of the gas decreases. 2. The average kinetic energy of the molecules decreases and the pressure of the gas increases. 3. The average kinetic energy of the molecules increases and the pressure of the gas decreases. 4. The average kinetic energy of the molecules increases and the pressure of the gas increases. 5. Which name is paired with the correct formula for the substance? 1. hydrogen chloride HCl 2 2. ammonia NH 4 3. sodium hypochlorite NaClO 4. sodium carbonate NaCO 3 6. The term, LD 50, is used in toxicology to refer to 1. Low Dosage for people age of 50 or less to prevent harm 2. Limit Duration of exposure to less than 50 seconds 3. Legal Document used in 50 states by the FDA 4. Lethal Dose for 50% of the exposed population 7. Which curve represents the relationship between dose of an administered substance and the response of the individual receiving the dose? A B C D response response response response dose dose dose dose 1. A 2. B 3. C 4. D My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 7

8 8. Which statement defines dose-response relationship in the context of hazardous substances? 1. Any dose will cause the same amount of harm 2. The harm from a hazard increases as the dose increases. 3. Small doses of a hazardous substance do not cause any harm. 4. Death is the result of contact with a hazardous substance. 9. Which term is not regulated for use to describe properties of hazardous substances? 1. Irritant 2. Corrosive 3. Deadly 4. Flammable 10. Labels on hazardous substances require, by law, the use of signal words to notify the consumer of the level of hazard. Below is a sample label. EASY-OFF HEAVY DUTY OVEN CLEANER READ WARNINGS, PRECAUTIONS AND ENTIRE LABEL BEFORE USE. PRECAUTIONS: Use only as directed. Recommended for use ONLY on porcelain enamel, iron, stainless steel, ceramic and glass surfaces. Do not puncture or incinerate container, expose to heat or store at temperature above 120 o F. DIRECTIONS: SHAKE CAN WELL AND FREQUENTLY. Wear long rubber gloves. Do not get this on skin clothing, or in eyes. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN DANGER: Contains sodium hydroxide (LYE) WILL BURN SKIN AND EYES. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED. Do not ingest. FIRST AID: SKIN rinse immediately and remove contaminated clothing. EYES rinse immediately, and remove any contact lenses. Flush eyes with water for at least 15 minutes. Which term on this sample label is an official hazardous substance Signal Word? 1. DANGER 2. FIRST AID 3. HARMFUL 4. PRECAUTIONS My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 8

9 Home Sweet Home? The Mysterious Death of Janette Williams Request for Assistance Dear Chemical Investigators, I am asking for your help in solving the unexplained death of Janette Williams in her home. Yesterday coworkers of Janette were concerned when she did not show up for work at Jiffy Lube, an automotive lubrication center. Janette was found dead at home, lying on the floor of her kitchen. Several household chemicals were seemingly in use at the time of death. The autopsy report from the County Coroner will be available in a few days. I will write a Forensic Specialist Report with an analysis of the crime scene. The Police Report follows. Please help us consider what conditions in her home might have contributed to the untimely death of a healthy, young adult. With Respect, Murray Jones, Forensic Specialist Vestal Police Department My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 9

10 Your responsibilities as a Chemical Investigator include: 1. Be a responsible, contributing member to your team of Chemical Investigators. 2. Read carefully the Official Police Report to become familiar with this case. 3. Research background information for insight into this case. You are individually responsible to report back to your team on a specific research topic. 4. Demonstrate expertise in all 4 topics of background information. The Chief Chemical Investigator (i.e. your teacher) will award a certificate of expertise to each Chemical Investigator upon mastery of the 4 research topics. 5. Read the County Coroner s Report and the Forensic Specialist s Report. Use your expertise as a Chemical Investigator to interpret the Reports. 6. File your Team s written report on the Mysterious Death of Janette Williams with the Chief Chemical Investigator. 7. (optional) Give a 3 minute oral presentation of your team s final report to the Association of High School Chemical Investigators (i.e. your class). My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 10

11 Official Police Report Date: Monday, July 24, 2006 Deceased: Location of Incident: Janette Williams 205 Main Street, Vestal, New York Approximate Time of Death: 11:30 am, Saturday, July 22, 2006 Note; numbers in parentheses refer to evidence tag numbers used by the forensic specialist and will be further analyzed in a report to follow. The body of Janette Williams was discovered by coworkers on the kitchen floor of her home in a middle-class neighborhood in Vestal New York. An empty unmarked plastic bottle (#1) lay close to the body. Assorted household cleaning supplies were on the countertop in the kitchen. A diffuse layer of white powder (#2) was found by the kitchen sink. The door to a kitchen cabinet with more cleaning chemicals was left open. Ant traps (#3) were on the floor in several locations around the perimeter of the kitchen. All exterior doors and windows were shut, with no apparent forced entry by an intruder. The vacuum cleaner was in the living room, with the TV on and tuned to VH1. Dust rags and polishing cloths were on the end tables next to the couch, which had all the cushions turned upright. A small bathroom was located next to the kitchen. The rug on the floor inside the bathroom was wrinkled in parallel rows and twisted in a counter-clockwise direction. A white thick liquid (#4) with a granular texture was found in the bathroom sink. The white porcelain of the toilet was badly rust stained. The toilet contained an unidentified (#5) chemical. A bucket of liquid (#6) was near the doorway. The mop was propped in the corner of the small bathroom. The door to the upstairs bedroom was closed. The door to the laundry room was open and the light was still on. The laundry room contained the washing machine (#7), which still had a load of wet towels. The dryer was filled with dry bed sheets. Outside, the garage door was open and a 2006 red sports car was parked in the driveway. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 11

12 Some of the chrome attachments on the car were covered with a white paste. A bottle of metal cleaner (#8) and cloth rags lay on the driveway near the car. In the garage was a long shelf of fertilizers, pesticides, and automotive products (#9), some of which were recently used. The sprinkler was still spraying water on the small backyard. Janette Williams husband was out of town, and was subsequently notified of the death of his wife. Recorded statements by people who knew Janette Williams: Coworker, Leroy Sadik: Janette was our best worker. She was always so enthusiastic about everything car related. She kept her own car clean enough to eat off of it. She was mad excited about buying her red sports car. She was always washing and waxing her baby. She did more treatments to that car than we do here in the Jiffy Lube. She could name any model of car that drove into the Jiffy Lube. Man, I m gonna miss her. Janette was one cool chick. Coworker, Tasha Turner: I can t believe she is dead. She was so thrilled about getting married last month and buying this house. All she talked about was making this old house into their home sweet home. She would hurry home after work each day to have a little time to work in her garden. Everybody loved Janette. I m sure she didn t have an enemy in the world. I just don t know what could have happened to end her life. Neighbor and Friend, Mary Ellis: I knew something was wrong when the car was left outside over the weekend. Oh, how I wish I had checked on Janette when I saw her washing her car Saturday morning! She was the best friend and neighbor a person could ask for. I know Saturdays were cleaning day for Janette. She would clean like a crazy person all morning, and then treat herself to a walk in the park. This was a special weekend for her, because it was the first time she and her husband were apart. She was trying to make everything perfect by the time he got back home. She was planning a romantic dinner for two Oh my, now it s all over! Husband, Bill Williams: I don t understand.. Janette was in perfect health, except for medicating for her asthma. She even had a physical with her doctor 2 weeks ago and was given a clean bill of health. She was always eating right and walking for exercise. How could she be dead? She knew I would be home Monday evening, and we had talked on the phone Saturday morning. She sounded anxious for me to get home, as if something special would be waiting for me. It s unbelievable.. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 12

13 Official Police Report Scene of Death of Janette Williams Note: numbers in parentheses refer to evidence tag numbers used by the forensic specialist and will be further analyzed in a report to follow. #4 #5 Garage #3 #6 #7 #9 #2 #1 #8 My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 13

14 Task 1: Process Official Police Report 1. With your Team of Chemical Investigators, list what you currently know about the death of Janette Williams. 2. Brainstorm specific conditions in the home of Janette Williams that might have led to the death of a healthy person. 3. What information do you need to continue your investigation? My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 14

15 Task 2: Research Background Information About Household Chemical Products Jigsaw Activity: Each person in your Team will become an expert on one of the research topics necessary to solve this case. When your individual research is done, come back together as a Team and report to the whole team concerning your research. The Team members will be learning from each other as you put all the pieces of information together. (Like a jigsaw puzzle, get it?) Remember, all members of the Team need to know all of this information, so work together! Your Chief Chemical Investigator (i.e. your teacher) will explain how to access the materials necessary for your individual research on one of the four Research Topics. RESEARCH TOPIC #1 What is Toxicology? What does toxicology have to do with Janette Williams? RESEARCH TOPIC #2 How can a household product be harmful? (Exposure, Routes of Entry, and Dose-Response) RESEARCH TOPIC #3 What information is found on the label of household products? RESEARCH TOPIC #4 Are household products good or bad for us? (Risk / Benefit Assessment) My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 15

16 TOPIC #1 What is Toxicology? What does toxicology have to do with Janette Williams? A toxic substance means any chemical or mixture that may be harmful to the environment and to human health if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. There are naturally occurring toxins (poisonous substances coming from living organisms) found in certain plants like poinsettias and even some wild mushrooms and berries. However, the toxic substances contained in most everyday household products are synthetic which means they are man-made. Many of the products you find in your home may have toxic substances. These products include: drain cleaners oven cleaners laundry detergents floor or furniture polish paints pesticides While these products are useful at home, some of the chemicals in these products can irritate your skin, eyes, nose and throat, or can even poison you! The Federal Hazardous Substance Act (FHSA) has defined some terms commonly used in toxicology. The following definitions are from the FHSA website ( Toxic refers to any substance (other than radioactive) that has the capacity to produce personal injury or illness to humans through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through any body surface. Highly Toxic refers to any substance that falls within the following three categories: a) produces death within 14 days in half or more than half of 14 or more white rats weighing grams when orally administered b) produces death within 14 days in half or more than half of 14 or more white rats weighing grams when inhaled continuously for 1 hour c) produces death within 14 days in half or more than half of 10 or more rabbits when administered topically My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 16

17 TOPIC #1 Continued.. Hazardous Substance refers to any substance or mixture that is toxic, corrosive, is an irritant, is a sensitizer, flammable, or produces a gas when heated. Hazardous Substances require specific signal words boldly written on labels to identify levels of risk involved in product use. More about this later. A Simple Lesson on Toxicology TOXICOLOGY is the study of toxic substances and their adverse effects on organisms. Each of us is concerned to some degree about the effects of chemicals on people, animals, and the environment. We know that some chemicals can have severely adverse impacts for example, the many deaths from methyl isocyanate exposure in Bhopal, India a number of years ago, or the birth defects in children whose mothers took thalidomide during pregnancy. We are also aware of chemicals in the environment that affect public health, such as the effects on children of lead in soil and drinking water. How concerned should we be about the countless small exposures to chemicals we experience each day? This is the business of toxicology. What substances are toxic? Any substance can be toxic. The higher the exposure to a substance is, the greater the chance of an adverse effect. One example is sodium chloride, or table salt. Although essential to life, children have died from eating salt and many adults suffer from hypertension, which is associated with too much salt in the diet. A number of vitamins are toxic at high doses. Vitamin D, in fact, is classed as a highly toxic substance and only tiny amounts are needed for proper nutrition. Many foods and beverages actually contain chemicals that could be toxic if you ate very large quantities. Carrots, for example, contain arsenic. Many plants produce toxins and many spiders, snakes, and insects produce venoms that contain powerful toxins. Certain bacteria also produce toxins, e.g., the botulinus toxin found in improperly preserved foods. Chemical toxicity is NOT a simple picture My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 17

18 TOPIC #1 Continued.. Most chemicals have both risks and benefits associated with their use. It is important to know the good and bad consequences of using a particular chemical. For example; Atropine is a super toxic chemical produced in the deadly nightshade plant. It is also an antidote for organophosphate pesticides poisoning and nerve gas poisoning. Botulinus toxin is the most acutely toxic chemical known. Yet, it has also been used to treat muscle spasms and hide wrinkles (Botox). Thalidomide produces serious birth defects in humans. However it is also a potent immune response modifying drug, and is being studied for use as an immunosuppressant in organ transplant recipients and as a drug to moderate some AIDS-related conditions. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient. It is also know to causes birth defects in humans. Toxicologists need to quantify the degree of toxicity of a particular toxin. The term LD 50 is the dose of toxin that results in death of 50% of the exposed population. People in general often have misconceptions as to how toxic a particular substance is. For example, botulinus toxin is one of the most toxic substances known, with an LD 50 of mg/kg. Look at the following chart and see if you can predict the next three most toxic substances on the list. The LD 50 s are on the next page. Do not look until after you have made your choices! Toxic Substance LD 50 (mg/kg) (i.e. ppm) Brown Recluse spider venom DDT Tetanus toxin Ethyl alcohol Aspirin Mothballs Dioxin Cholera toxin Mercury (II) nitrate Morphine Botulinus toxin Nicotine Arsenic Cyanide My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 18

19 TOPIC #1 Continued So what does a person need to know to be informed to make good decisions? Toxicity and the field of toxicology require knowledge into the following areas: a) frequency and duration of exposure to toxin b) chemical properties of toxin c) route of entry of toxin d) dose of toxin e) individual traits of exposed person (age, weight, gender, health, etc) f) dose and response relationship of toxin Chemical toxicity is NOT a simple picture Answers Toxic Substance LD 50 (mg/kg) (i.e. ppm) Brown Recluse spider venom 85 DDT 250 *Tetanus toxin Ethyl alcohol 10,000 Aspirin 250 Mothballs 500 *Dioxin Cholera toxin 250 Mercury (II) nitrate 25 Morphine 900 *Botulinus toxin *Nicotine 1 Arsenic 100 Cyanide 10 References: My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 19

20 TOPIC #2 How can a household product be harmful? (Exposure, Routes of Entry, and Dose-Response) Exposure Exposure is the mode of contact made with a hazardous substance. Factors such as how strong and how long you com in contact with a chemical will help determine how harmful the chemical is to you. Knowing about your exposure is very important in trying to find out if a chemical will cause you health problems. It can be tricky because sometimes it can be a long time after you come in contact with a chemical before you get sick. Toxic herbicides, such as Agent Orange, might have a delayed response of up to a decade or more. Or, it can take repeated contact with a chemical before you get sick or have a response. For example, repeated exposure to high levels of asbestos can cause the respiratory disease asbestosis. If you have a reaction to any household products that have been used around your home, you will need to know about your exposure to the product. The four (4) descriptions and example questions below will help you to understand. 1. Your exposure is based on how and where on your body you came in contact with the chemical. Did some spray from a glass cleaner get on your skin while cleaning the bathroom mirror? Did you accidentally walk into the room where a fogger or insect bomb had just been set off and breathe the fumes? Did you play on the grass after a weed killer was put on your lawn? Were you washing your dog with a flea and tick shampoo? 2. Your exposure is based on how long you were in contact with the chemical. Were you playing all day on the lawn after a weed killer was used? Did you spend a half hour picking tomatoes after an insect killer was sprayed in your garden? Did you sleep all night in a room that had just been painted? 3. Your exposure is based on how much of the chemical you come in contact with. How much insect spray got on your arm? Was it just a few drops or enough to make a large wet spot? How much of the insect powder to kill ants got on your hands? Was it a little on your fingers or was it all over your hands? How much of the container of liquid cleaner spilled on your clothes? Was it a little splash or half the bottle? My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 20

21 TOPIC #2 Continued.. 4. Your exposure is based on how strong or toxic the chemical is. Did the spray from a pesticide container brought from the store get on you? Did the liquid from a container of weed killer and water that your Dad mixed together spill on you? What is the Signal Word on the label of the container - Caution, Warning or Danger/Poison? Routes of Entry How does exposure occur? Before a toxic effect can occur, there must be exposure. A toxic substance may enter the body through the mouth, lung, or skin. lung/inhalation - by breathing in the fumes of the chemical skin/dermal - having the chemical splash or spill on your skin mouth/ingestion - eating or swallowing a chemical The lung is usually the most rapid means of entry into the bloodstream. For example, gaseous anesthetics act very rapidly. And inhaled toxins, such as the fumes released by burning plastics, can have rapid and catastrophic effects. Skin is usually a defense against toxic substances, but it can also be a point of entry. For example, the pesticide parathion is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. In a recent case, a scientist was poisoned by mercury absorbed through laboratory gloves. Once ingested by mouth, a chemical may be absorbed across the wall of the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. Most of a chemical absorbed in this way is carried first to the liver. The liver metabolizes the chemical into a less or sometimes more toxic form. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 21

22 TOPIC #2 Continued.. Dose-Response For many chemicals, there is a dose at which there are no toxic effects, there is a dose at which the effects are reversible, and there is a dose at which the effects may have permanent consequences. This pattern can be seen in the following graph representing a typical dose response curve. As the dose increases, the effect of the chemical also increases. A common phrase to express this relationship is the dose makes the poison. Examples of some toxic chemicals that adults are exposed to regularly are caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. At doses normally consumed by the average person, the effect felt by the individual can be quite different. One person may be able to drink 5 cups of coffee without visible effects, while another person might get the shakes after 2 cups of coffee. This is an example of how the dose and response varies from one person to the next. At some point, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol can have a much more serious effect on the individual. At extremely high doses caffeine is capable of making changes at the cellular level), and is a probable carcinogen. At high doses, nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, can be a very potent poison causing nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and even death. Alcohol can cause birth defects, brain damage, coma, and death. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 22

23 TOPIC #2 Continued.. Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol are examples of toxic chemicals that as a society has evaluated, and some have made a conscious decision to continue their exposure to these toxic chemicals, despite the known risks. So the issue is not whether a chemical is toxic, it is the nature of the toxicity. Household cleaning products are definitely an area where we can exercise some choice over the degree of toxicity to which we expose ourselves and our families. References: My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 23

24 TOPIC #3 What information is on the label of household chemical? About Labels Many household products contain toxic ingredients that can be harmful to humans, animals, or the environment. The average home has between 3 and 10 gallons of hazardous products. Even so, we use these products to clean or maintain our home. Hazardous chemicals have important label warnings that require our attention before we use the chemicals. The label is your guide to using products safely and effectively. Signal Words Labels use signal words to show how toxic or hazardous a product can be. Signal words are large lettered words meant to attract the attention of the consumer. The signal words are POISON DANGER WARNING CAUTION You need to be careful when products with signal words on the label are used. Make sure you do not come in contact with any of the chemicals from these products. Remember to always "Read the Label First" to know how to properly use these products and for safety information. Poison and Danger are the strongest signal words. If the hazardous material contains deadly substances that are highly toxic, the signal word POISON is used along with or instead of DANGER, and a skull and cross bones symbol is displayed. Danger is a signal word to heed. If a label has the word Danger on it, you must be extremely careful using the product. If it is used the wrong way, you could get very sick, be hurt for a long time, go blind or even die. Danger is also used on products that could explode if they get hot. Warning is less strong than Danger, but it still means that you could get really sick or become seriously hurt. Warning is also used to identify products that can easily catch on fire. Caution shows that the product could hurt you, but it is less harmful than products with a danger or warning signal word. Caution is used on products that could bother your skin, make you sick if you breathed the fumes, or really hurt if the product got in your eyes. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 24

25 TOPIC #3 Continued The signal words used in the precautionary statements on the labels of hazardous substances represent quantitative information about the chemicals in concern. Signal Words for Hazardous Substances Toxicity Dose (LD 50 ) (mg/kg or ppm) POISON deadly 0-50 DANGER highly toxic or corrosive 0-50 WARNING moderately toxic CAUTION slightly toxic Not all household chemicals are hazardous. Some household products will have no signal words on their labels. A hazardous substance is defined in federal regulations as one that may cause substantial personal injury or illness during reasonable handling or use, including possible ingestion by children. According to the Federal Hazardous Substance Act (FHSA), the term hazardous substance means any substance or mixture having at least one of the following properties; toxic, corrosive, irritant, strong sensitizer, flammable, or generates pressure. The term hazardous substance does not apply to pesticides subject to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, nor to foods, drugs, and cosmetics subject to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The table on the next page lists the properties used in conjunction with signal words on labels. Think about the meanings of these 6 properties. Work individually to match the following properties to their definitions. The answers are on the bottom of the page, but do not look now! My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 25

26 TOPIC #3 Continued.. PROPERTIES OF HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES Write letter here Toxic Corrosive A. A substance that destroys human tissue by means of a chemical reaction. The product can severely burn skin or eyes. Tissue is destroyed or irreversibly altered. B. A substance that harms human tissue only after repeated exposure. On first exposure, little or no effect can be noticed. Irritant C. A substance that ignites easily and burns rapidly. Strong Sensitizer You think of a symbol. D. Some substances are unstable and undergo a chemical reaction which produces a gas due to decomposition, heat, or other means. If in a sealed container, an explosion may occur. Flammable E. A substance that causes long-term negative effects in living organisms. Generates Pressure F. A substance that that harms human tissue after one or more exposures. Can cause a reversible inflammatory effect on living tissue. References: Answers: Toxic E, Corrosive A, Irritant F, Strong Sensitizer B, Flammable C, Generates Pressure D My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 26

27 TOPIC 4 Are household chemical products good or bad for us? (Risk / Benefit Assessment) RISK versus BENEFIT: You Decide... Aspirin is a drug with many beneficial uses. It is generally regarded as quite safe. However, it is not without side effects. Aspirin has a complex range of effects. It is a pain reliever and reduces fever and inflammation. It is also an acidic compound and may act as a stomach irritant in some people. It may also have adverse effects on pregnant women in the third trimester. With prolonged use of the drug also comes a risk of some hearing loss. Doctors often prescribe 4-8 aspirin each day for patients suffering from arthritis, a painful and debilitating disease. Imagine that your joints ached constantly, limiting your activity. Aspirin could help relieve your pain. Would you take the aspirin? In other words, would you prefer to live with the pain or with the possible side effects of the treatment? List the Risks and Benefits of using aspirin in the table below: Household Product Risks Benefits Aspirin My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 27

28 TOPIC #4 Continued RISK ASSESSMENT There is no way to eliminate the risk involved with exposure to synthetic and natural chemicals. However, toxicologists working with government regulators have developed means to assess risk. Risk assessment is a process in which the toxicity of chemicals in animals and other models, as well as the level of human exposure, is examined. From this evaluation is calculated a safe dose of the compound. Risk assessment is used to set standards (levels that should not be exceeded) -- for example, the level of pesticide residue on fresh fruits and vegetables. The risk assessment process is deliberately conservative. When definite answers are not known, worst case assumptions are made to ensure that even very sensitive people would not be harmed by a standard exposure. Scientists seek to minimize risks associated with use of consumer products and other chemicals. Risk vs. Benefit Household cleaning products present the need for a risk vs. benefit assessment. Disinfectants are commonly used around the house to kill germs that might lead to illness. Thus, disinfectants, by the nature of their action, contain toxic chemicals. Yet the level of toxicity needs to be kept to killing germs and not harming the individuals the use of the product is meant to protect. In other words, do the benefits of using disinfectants outweigh the disadvantage of possible adverse side effects in some people? Similar risk-benefit analysis is used in many of our daily personal decisions. Will you eat red meat even though heart disease runs in your family? Will you get exercise by jogging along the road even though the risk of personal injury increases? Will you use pesticides on your lawn knowing the risk of harming the ground water supply? WHY IS RISK ASSESSMENT IMPORTANT? Humans make risk assessment and risk management decisions every day. Consider the risk in just driving your car. There is no such thing as zero risk, therefore an informed and balanced perspective is important to make wise choices. If perceptions of risk are faulty, efforts at environmental and public health protection will be misdirected. Only when you know the risks, can you take the necessary precautionary measures. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 28

29 TOPIC #4 Continued Ten Common Hazardous Household Products Consider the Risk vs. the Benefit of using these household chemicals. Complete the chart by adding several beneficial reasons why these products are used in the house. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Household Product Risks Benefits 1. Bleach Sodium hypochlorite 2. Carpet & Spot Cleaners Ammonium hydroxide 3. Dishwasher Detergent Sodium Silicate (powdered) 4. Disinfectants Dioxin 5. Drain Cleaner Sodium or Potassium hydroxide (lye) Strong corrosive- burns eyes, skin and lungs. Causes respiratory tract damage. May cause pulmonary edema if ingested Corrosive, extremely irritable to eyes, skin and respiratory passages. Corrosive. Burns to eyes, tissue, and skin. Burns to the mouth, throat, and stomach if swallowed. Carcinogen. (500,000 times more deadly than DDT) Highly caustic- burns skin and eyes. If ingested will burn esophagus and stomach. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 29

30 TOPIC #4 Continued. Ten Common Hazardous Household Products Continued Household Product Risks Benefits 6. Floor Cleaner/Wax Petroleum Solvents 7. Laundry Detergent Sodium Silicate powdered) 8. Oven Cleaner Sodium or Potassium hydroxide (lye) Linked to skin and lung cancer. Irritant to skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Corrosive. Burns eyes and tissue. Damages skin. Burns to the mouth, throat, and stomach if swallowed. Highly caustic, burns skin and eyes. Poisonous if ingested due to severe tissue burns and damage. 9. Toilet Bowl Cleaner/ Tub & Tile Cleaner Acid-based products can Active" acids cause SEVERE burns skin. Can permanently damage eyes and lungs. 10. Window Cleaner Damaging to eyes, mucus Ammonia membranes, respiratory tract and skin. Causes headaches. Poisonous fumes when mixed with chlorine chemicals like bleach Reference: My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 30

31 Task 3: Check For Understanding After your research team puts together all the research components presented in this case, each member of the team must be prepared to answer questions on ALL of the research topics. Contact the Chief Chemical Investigator to certify your understanding of Toxicology, Exposure, Routes of Entry, Information on Labels, and Risk/Benefit Assessment. ***All team members must be certified in these areas before continuing with the investigation. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 31

32 Certification Questions for Task 3 Toxicology 1. What is meant by toxicology? 2. Give an example of the saying the dose makes the poison. In other words, what is a substance that is beneficial in certain quantities but harmful in larger quantities? 3. What does it mean that the LD 50 of botulinus toxin is mg/kg? 4. Name several factors that determine the level of toxicity? 5. How is the study of toxicology related to the death of Janette Williams? Exposure, Routes of Entry, and Dose-Response 6. What are three routes for exposure to a chemical? 7. What other factors determine the response to exposure of a chemical? 8. Do you think all routes of exposure are equivalent for a specific toxin? Explain. 9. What is the first thing that you do if. a. You splash a harmful chemical on the skin of your arm? b. A harmful chemical mist irritates your eyes? c. The smell of a noxious gas makes you feel dizzy? 10. Sketch the shape of a dose-response curve. What does this shape imply? Household Product Labels 11. Name and rank the 4 signal words found on labels of hazardous household products? 12. What term describes the property of a hazardous substance if it can destroy human tissue by a chemical reaction and severely burn skin or eyes? harm human tissue only after repeated exposure? harm human tissue after one or more exposures but the damage is reversible and tissue can be restored? readily undergo combustion? explode if heated? Cause long term negative effects in humans? 13. What symbol can you design for a product that contains a strong sensitizer? Risk/Benefit Assessment 14. Explain the concept of Risk-Benefit assessment. 15. Give an example of a decision relevant to your life involving risks and benefits. 16. Give an example of the Risk-Benefit assessment for a household product of your choice. Explain both the risk and the benefit of the household product. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 32

33 Task 4: Learn More About Household Product Labels For Task 4 your team will work together to analyze a typical label on a household product. The labels of household products containing hazardous substances must include at least the following information: 1. Brand Name 2. Common and/or Chemical Name A list of the common names of the hazardous ingredients; if a hazardous substance has no common name, the chemical name will be listed. 3. Amount of Contents 4. Signal Word One of the signal words must appear on all hazardous substances. 5. Instructions for Safe Handling and Use Warnings about how to use the product and where to avoid use of the product. 6. Name and Address of Manufacturer, Distributor, Packer or Seller Contact the manufacturer about any questions concerning the product. 7. Description of Hazard and Precaution A description of the principal hazard involved in using the product. In this case, the product causes burns and is "corrosive" to the skin and eyes, and to the gastrointestinal system if swallowed. A statement of what to do to avoid the hazard such as precautions to wear gloves or eye protection, or to provide adequate ventilation. 8. First Aid Instructions, When Necessary or Appropriate On some hazardous products antidotes are provided in case of accidental poisoning. In the event of a poison emergency, always call for emergency services of the Regional Poison Center. Your team will work together to look at the next sample label from a household chemical. Find, circle, and label all 8 parts of the required label components on this Easy-Off label. Use the numbers 1-8 along the left side to label these sections on the Easy-Off label. References: My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 33

34 Circle and label the 8 required label components on the left hand side of this page. Front Label America s #1 Oven Cleaner EASY - OFF Heavy Duty Original Oven Cleaner CUTS THROUGH TOUGH BAKED ON FOOD AND GREASE KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN DANGER: CAUSES BURNS TO SKIN AND EYES ON CONTACT. HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE. READ PRECAUTIONS ON BACK NET WT. 16 OZ (1 LB.) 453 G Back Label EASY-OFF HEAVY DUTY OVEN CLEANER EFFECTIVELY CLEANS WARM OR COLD OVENS! IDEAL FOR CLEANING OVENS, BROILERS, BARBEQUE GRILLS & STAINLESS STEEL SURFACES. READ WARNINGS, PRECAUTIONS AND ENTIRE LABEL BEFORE USE. NOTE: FOLLOW DIRECTIONS ON SAFET CAP TO REMOVE IT. DO NOT USE KNOFE OR OTHER TOOL TO PRY CAP. DOING SO MAY PUNCTURE CONTAINER. NOTE: PLACE BOTH THUMBS DIRECTLY BELOW THE WORD HERE LOCATED OON THE TOP OF CAP. PUSH CAP UPWARDS WITH VOTH THUMBS. PRECAUTIONS: Recommended for use ONLY on porcelain enamel, iron, stainless steel, ceramic and glass surfaces. Avoid excessive use on glass. Do not use on exterior oven surfaces, aluminum, chrome, baked enamel. So not use on self-cleaning or continuouscleaning ovens. Avoid spraying oven pilot light. Keep off all electrical connections such as heating element, thermostat, bulb receptacles. Light switch. Do not puncture or incinerate container, expose to heat or store at temperature above 120 o F. Never leave can on stove or near source of heat. Avoid freezing. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 34

35 Back Label continued DIRECTIONS: SHAKE CAN WELL AND FREQUENTLY. Wear long rubber gloves. Do not get this on skin clothing, or in eyes. FAST CLEANING: 1) Preheat oven to 200 o F. Once preheated, turn oven off before applying EASY-OFF Oven Cleaner. 2) Wear long rubber gloves when using. 3) Liberally spread newspaper under oven door and surrounding area to protect floor. For ease of application remove oven racks ad clean separately. 4) Hold can upright pointed away from face. Spray surfaces from a distance of 9 12 inches. Make sure pointing arrow is aligned with black dot. Spray top of oven first, then spray sides and bottom. 5) After application, close oven door. 6) Allow foam to work 5-10 minutes then wipe clean with wet cloth or sponge, rinsing frequently. For heavily soiled areas, allow to work longer. 7) After use, rinse spray button thoroughly and drain excess water. Replace cap promptly. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN DANGER: Contains sodium hydroxide (LYE) WILL BURN SKIN AND EYES. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, mucous membranes and clothing. HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED. Do not ingest. AVOID BREATHING SPRAY MIST. WEAR LONG RUBBER GLOVES WHEN USING. FIRST AID: SKIN rinse immediately and remove contaminated clothing, wash thoroughly with soap and water and continue flushing with water for at least 10 minutes. If discomfort persists, call a physician immediately. EYES rinse immediately, and remove any contact lenses and continue flushing with water for at least 15 minutes. If discomfort persists, call a physician immediately. IF SWALLOWED DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING rinse mouth thoroughly with water, drink water or milk. Call a physician immediately. Important Facts: Encourage your local authorities to establish a program to recycle this can. This can is made from an average of 25% recycled steel (10% post consumer). Questions? Comments? Call Distributed by: Rickett Benckiser Inc. Parsippany, NJ, Made in the U.S.A. Visit us at My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 35

36 Task 5: Record Information from Household Product Labels Now your Research Team is to apply your new knowledge by finding and recording the information available on Household Products Labels. Read the precautionary statements on the labels of 10 household products that your Chief Chemical Investigator has made available in the classroom. Record label information on the chart provided on the next two pages. Not all chemicals found in the home are classified as hazardous. If, however, according to Federal Law, the household product is found to be hazardous, signal words will define the level of the hazard. Remember, the Federal Hazardous Substance Act does not regulate all chemical products that could be found in a home. Pesticides, foods, drugs, and cosmetics are all regulated by other federal laws. Remember, only hazardous substances are required to comply with the labeling regulated by Federal Hazardous Substance Act (FHSA). When the front of the chart is complete, answer the questions on the back regarding the chemicals you identified. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 36

37 Task 5: Chart for Recording Information from Household Product Labels Hazardous Substance? Yes or No Brand Name of Product Common or Chemical Name of Ingredient(s) Write chemical formulas Signal Words Description of Hazardous Properties Route of Exposure My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 37

38 Task 5: Questions to answer concerning the chemicals identified on household product labels 1. Write the names and formulas of any organic compounds. 2. Write the names and empirical formulas of any ionic compound. 3. Write the names and structural formulas of polar covalent compounds. 4. Write the names and structural formulas of nonpolar covalent compounds. 5. Which active ingredients did you find that could be classified as acids? 6. Which active ingredients did you find that could be classified as bases? 7. Petroleum distillates are found in several WD40, metal polishes, and Goo Gone. Petroleum is another name for crude oil. Distillation is a process to physically separate the components of a mixture. What is the physical property of these components on which the separation technique is based? 8. Aqueous ammonia solution is a common cleaning product used to degrease surfaces. What intermolecular force is responsible for the dissolving of ammonia in water? 9. Draw a particle diagram representing 3 molecules of ammonia dissolved in 6 molecules of water. Indicate on the diagram the intermolecular force mentioned in your answer to question #7. Be sure to draw the proper orientation of the molecules attracted by intermolecular forces. 10. In the automotive product Heet, methyl alcohol is used as a gas line antifreeze and water remover. Why would water in the gas line be attracted to the methyl alcohol? (Remember the gas line is full of the hydrocarbon gasoline.) Identify the intermolecular force responsible for this attraction. 11. Why does the addition of antifreeze keep your radiator in your car from freezing in cold weather? My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 38

39 Task 6: Evaluate Information from Household Product Labels Each team member has read the labels of 10 household products. Now as a team you will reflect on this information. First discuss each question within your team. Then answer each question individually on your paper. Questions for Reflection; 1. If the 10 products you evaluated were found in your home, which room of your house would contain the most hazardous substances? What precautions would you take to insure the safety of your family? 2. Which signal word was most commonly found? Which description of hazardous properties was most commonly found? What does this suggest? 3. Consider the signal words used on labels. Design a symbol that could be used as an icon for each signal word. Danger / Poison Warning Caution My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 39

40 4. Many products refer to specific warnings for children? Why are children more at risk for poisoning? 5. Consider a closed container of a hazardous substance that generates a gas when decomposed or heated. Explain, in terms of kinetic molecular theory, why this is a risk. 6. Why do manufactures use such small print when the warning is required to protect consumers? 7. If a household substance is used incorrectly, do you think the manufacturer should be held responsible for the consequences? Give reasons for your perspective. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 40

41 County Coroner s Autopsy Report Name of Deceased: Janette Williams Sex: Female Approx. Age: 26 Height: 5 6 Weight: 145 lbs Blood Type: O positive Known Health Condition Asthma requiring medication, but otherwise deceased was known to be in good health. Physical Description of the Body The body of the deceased had blood pooling beneath the skin of the right hip and back of the head, supporting a hard fall to the floor. Red scratch marks were evident on her throat. Skin cells were found under the fingernails of her right hand. The throat area was swollen and red. The eyes showed signs of severe irritation with excess redness and tearing. Nostrils evidenced signs of extreme rhinorrhea, i.e., runny nose. Autopsy Report There was no trauma to the esophagus or stomach, indicating no ingestion of a toxic substance. The heart and surrounding blood vessels collapsed due to hypotension (low blood pressure). Some signs of necrosis (holes) in the cell layers inside of the nose and lungs. Trachea severely burned. Impaired Respiratory System, marked by lung damage. Pulmonary Edema was found in lungs, evidenced by accumulations of fluid and swelling. Blood Chemistry Acidosis of the blood was found, with a lower ph instead of the normal ph of Lactic acid concentration in excess of normal was found in the blood and is a sign of inadequate mitochondrial oxygenation, a condition resulting from insufficient oxygen supply. Prescription drugs for the treatment of asthma were detected in the blood. Conclusive Cause of Death Asphyxiation caused by Respiratory Failure Mucus in lungs caused impaired gas exchange and led to respiratory failure. The asphyxiation was due to a deficient supply of oxygen. The deceased s lungs were already compromised due to her condition of asthma. The irritation of the trachea and lining of the lungs is consistent with a toxic chemical inhalation. Thus death resulted from choking on a poisonous gas. Teresa Gonzales Signature: Date: My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 41

42 Forensic Specialist s Report Analysis of tagged suspicious chemicals found at the site of the death of Janette Williams Item #1 Empty unmarked bottle found next to deceased. This was found to be a #1 recyclable plastic made of Polyethylene Terephthalate, or PET. The label on the bottle had been removed. Chemical analysis of the trace remains of liquid in the bottle revealed an aqueous solution of sodium hypochlorite. Item #2 Item #3 Item #4 Item #5 Item #6 Item # 7 Item #8 Item #9 The white powder by the kitchen sink was analyzed to be sodium bicarbonate. Ant Traps contained a mixture of sodium tetraborate pentahydrate and boric acid. Thick white liquid in bathroom sink was found to be an aqueous suspension of calcium carbonate. The toilet bowl was found to contain an acidic cleanser, with hydrochloric acid still remaining in the toilet bowl. The bucket of liquid was analyzed and found to be local tap water. The Super Washing Soda found next to the washing machine contained sodium carbonate. The metal cleaner used on the chrome of the car contained petroleum distillates. Two automotive products had been recently used by the deceased. The gallon of antifreeze/coolant contained ethylene glycol (1,2-dihydroxy alcohol or 1,2-ethanediol). A small container of gas line antifreeze and water remover was found to contain methyl alcohol (methanol). Murray Jones Forensic Specialist Signature: Date: My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 42

43 Task 7: Final Report from the Chemical Investigators Date Team Members Names 2. Hypothesize a scenario that created the environmental health issue in the home of Janette Williams. 3. Which hazardous chemical agents do you think lead to the death of Janette Williams. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 43

44 4. What warning signs are normally displayed on the labels of the chemicals used by Janette Williams, which, if noticed, could have prevented this incident? 5. Recommendations of Chemical Investigation Team for future consumers. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 44

45 For Your Information: Household chemicals account for approximately 50% annually of all instances of reported poisonings. The majority of these poisonings occur to children under 6 years of age. The Top Ten Poison Exposures in Children under Cosmetics and Personal Care Products 2. Household Cleaning Products 3. Foreign Bodies and Toys 4. Topical Preparations (ointments, creams, gels, and lotions) 5. Analgesics (pain relievers) 6. Plants 7. Cold and Cough Medications 8. Arts / Crafts / Office Supplies 9. Vitamins 10. Pesticides Reprinted from: Factual Data #1: Five-year cumulative data ( ) from the American Association of Poison Controls Centers' National Data Collection System revealed 27,788 exposures to chlorine. Of these exposures, the outcome was categorized in 21,437 cases; 40 resulted in a major effect, 2091 resulted in a moderate effect, 17,024 resulted in a minor effect, and 2099 had no effect. Three fatalities occurred. Reprinted from: Factual Data #2 Following Hurricane Katrina, many residents of South Louisiana returned home to find that their water-damaged properties would require cleaning and disinfecting. Hence, there was a concern about health effects resulting from exposure to bleach mixtures. Over a sixmonth period, sixty-five individuals statewide called health authorities to report health concerns resulting from exposure to a bleach/ammonia or bleach/acid mixture. The most commonly reported symptoms included cough/choke, throat irritation and shortness of breath. Most of the reported cases (74%) required no hospitalization. Reprinted from: 205/marapr06DontMixWithBleach.pdf My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 45

46 Teacher Information Home Sweet Home? The Mysterious Death of Janette Williams For Teacher Information only! Do not reveal the solution to students. Let them discover this. Mysterious Death Solved (several scenarios possible): Janette had an unmarked bottle of chlorine bleach in her hands. She was cleaning the toilet with an acidic toilet bowl cleaner, and evidently added some bleach thinking she would better remove any stains. Noxious fumes of chlorine gas were generated, and she perhaps ran out of the small bathroom, twisting the bathroom rug as she exited. Janette collapsed on the floor in the middle of the kitchen, dropping the unmarked bottle of bleach. The toilet bowl still had excess acid in it from the toilet bowl cleaner. Janette must have gasped for breath and scratched her throat as she lost consciousness. What is the balanced chemical reaction for the dangerous reaction of chlorine bleach and hydrochloric acid, as found in Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner? The main compound in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl). This compound becomes hypochlorous acid (HOCl) by hydrolysis: NaOCl + H 2 O HOCl + Na + + OH Actually the chlorine in the bleach exists as hypochlorous acid. This compound is so oxidative that it has a property of bleaching and sterilization. Gaseous chlorine is generated when hypochlorous acid is mixed with hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is used in acidic toilet cleaner. When the hypochlorous acid from the sodium hypochlorite comes into contact with the acidic toilet bowl cleaner, chlorine gas is generated. HOCl + HCl H 2 O + Cl 2 Hypochlorous acid also generates gaseous chlorine in the presence of not only hydrochloric acid but also other acids, such as acetic acid (CH 3 COOH, vinegar). 2HOCl + 2HCH 3 COO Cl 2 + 2H 2 O + 2CH 3 COO There are other scenarios that are feasible, like using Whink to remover rust stains and bleach to whiten the toilet. This too would have created the chlorine gas. Lime-A-Way is also an acidic cleaner which would generate chlorine gas when mixed with bleach. Any acidic household chemical would react with bleach to generate chlorine gas. My Environment, My Health, My Choices Page 46

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